This major issue is still being investigated. Yet there is now ample evidence that the currently available RNA-based vaccines (Pfizer/BioNtech and Moderna) have retained efficacy against the “UK” (B.1.1.7) variant. In contrast, in vitro laboratory testing have shown that the capacity of the antibodies generated by currently available vaccines to neutralize variants originated from South Africa (B.1.351) and Brazil (B.1.1.248) has significantly decreased. Consistent with these results, are some recent clinical studies based on different vaccines showing a difference in vaccine efficacy between the UK (90%) and South Africa (60%) with the Novavax vaccine and 72% in the US and 57% in South Africa for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
However, recent data would also suggest that the RNA-based vaccines would show sufficient protection against the variants but this needs to be confirmed.
When looking at the risk of severe disease and hospitalization, the current vaccines seem to offer protection against developing severe COVID-19. As an example, the AstraZeneca vaccine showed similar efficacy with the original and the B117 “UK” strains. The effect of the AstraZeneca vaccine on hospitalizations with B1351 has not yet been reported.
Finally, it is also important to emphasize that vaccines will generate what is called a “polyclonal antibody response” which means that the vaccine generates antibodies to many components of the viral proteins which limit the impact of specific mutations. Depending on the vaccine they can also generate T-cells, which may be very important to ensure long term protection, preventing severe disease and possibly containing variant spreading.